Bill Browder, the American-born British financier pursuing banks for laundering dirty money from Russia, claims he has evidence that $405 million in suspicious funds flowed into accounts at Nordea Bank that came from Danske Bank's Estonian branch as well as Lithuania's Ūkio Bankas, Bloomberg reported.
According to Browder, the CEO of investment fund Hermitage Capital Management and former employer of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the money that flowed into Nordea came from fictitious companies with accounts at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank and at Ūkio Bankas in Lithuania set up to launder money and evade taxes between 2007-2013.
The figure, which is more than double a previous estimate provided by Browder, is listed in a criminal complaint sent to the Finnish authorities on Monday and follows similar filings to other Nordic prosecutors earlier this month. Finland's National Bureau of Investigation has confirmed receipt of Browder's complaint.
Nordea is the second major bank in the region to be accused of abetting money laundering. Danske Bank is currently under investigation in several jurisdictions including the US for letting approximately $230 billion (€200 billion) flow through its tiny Estoniian branch, with much of that amount now thought to be suspicious in origin, Bloomberg said.
Browder said he couldn't rule out that further evidence of illicit flows through Nordea may yet emerge. "The final number is unknown," he said in an interview on Monday. "We continue to work through all the data we have, and we continue to get more data from different countries."
Spokesperson Afroditi Kellberg said Nordea is aware of Browder's complaint. The bank is working with the relevant authorities and has invested "heavily" in strengthening its defences against money launderers, she told Bloomberg via email.
Swedbank: We won't be drawn into scandal
Meanwhile, Swedbank, the largest bank operating in the Baltic region, is confident it won't be drawn into the money laundering scandals that have tainted some of its peers.
Swedbank told Bloomberg that its focus on domestic customers over the years has protected it from the kind of illicit flows that allegedly gushed through Danske Bank's business in Tallinn and, to a lesser extent, into Nordea Bank, according to filings with Nordic prosecutors.
According to Swedbank CEO Birgitte Bonnesen, the sources of potentially suspicious flows linked to other banks have no ties to her bank.
"None of the names that have been out there have ever been customers of Swedbank, formerly or currently," she said on a conference call on Tuesday after the bank reported its third-quarter results. "But the most important thing I can tell you is that we run a retail bank in the Baltic countries."
Editor: Aili Vahtla